With the Willem Dafoe starring drama The Hunter coming to Blu-ray and DVD on October 29th, The Fan Carpet's Holly Patrick was delighted to sit down with Director Daniel Nettheim about his debut feature.
Based on the novel by Julia Leigh, The Hunter finds Martin, a mercenary, who is sent from Europe by a mysterious biotech company to the Tasmanian wilderness on a hunt for the last Tasmanian tiger.
Can you tell us how this whole project came about? Obviously it is based on the book but what inspired you to make the film?
OK so quick potted history, I knew the author of the book, I went to the book launch, bought a copy of the book and read it shortly after and it resinated with me and sat in the back of my mind for months. I am always looking out for film projects when I'm reading stuff, there was enough stuff there that resinated with me and made me want to pursue it. I spoke to a producer and we talked about the pro's and cons and drafted up a 15 page treatment to verify to ourselves that there was a film in there, and then we negotiated the rights with the author. There was a lot in the book that I thought was incredibly filmic, I loved the depiction of the landscapes, I loved the central main character journey, I thought there was a lot of great emotional stuff there. It was also a very literary, very internal novel that was not obviously 'dramatic' so I knew there were going to be challenges, I just didn't know that it was going to take 8 years to get a draft.
Is that how long it took?
Yeah, There was 8 years and 8 drafts before we were ready to send it out to actors. From the moment that we finally premiered the film it had been 10 years since we'd acquired the rights. So luckily I was passionate enough about the material.
So when making this story into a film there are a lot of moments where the main character is quite isolated, in the middle of nowhere, alone- was there ever a worry in your mind that the film wouldn't be entertaining enough for an audience?
That was a worry at the script stage definitely and part of the process of the adaptation was to find a balance so that you never put stay your welcome with the guy alone in the wilderness and get a bit bored by it and that there was always a bit of pressure and tension on him from somewhere. There was always a sense of threat and a sense of danger. But we still wanted to be able to find the beauty in those moments of isolation with a man alone in the bush. We tried hard to find the balance at the script stage and then we tried hard again in the edit to make sure that we had the right balance. It became obvious, there were certain points when we were doing the rough cuts where we noticed that there were way too many traps or way too many moments in the wilderness for way too long, we want to get back to the family so then we would push it the other way and we would think 'oh the film's lost all it's poetry, it's just action, action, action. We had to play around with it until I was satisfied that I had that balance.
Was the myth of the Tasmanian Tiger something that fuelled your passion for the project?
Not really. Like most young Australians I was aware of it and i'd seen the footage and I enjoyed the speculation about whether or not they were still out there or not but I was in no way a crypto-zoologist or somebody who was obsessed by that. It was only once we had started working on the film and actually going to Tasmania that I become aware of how alive this myth still was, and how passionate the belief was that this animal still existed. I thought that was really interesting because in a way if the animal still exists it let's us off the hook from having killed it off in the first place. But then again by the same token if it is still alive then we don't have to accept responsibility, it is kind of a wishful thinking that if it is still out there then we can be redeemed from the sins of our past. However it is probably better to admit that we were wrong and that we stuffed up and that it's dead so that we don't do it again in the future. I think that the ongoing battle in Tasmania to save the old growth forests from wood chipping is a continuation of the same debate. To what ends will we go to in the name of progress and development before it's too late, at what point do we realise that we are doing irreversible damage. The film was not intended to be a 'message' movie, it's an adventure film, it's a thriller but there is such resinant, thematic stuff happening in the background that I thought that it really in riches the viewing experience to kind of reference that.
READ THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE
The Hunter Film Page | The Hunter Review
THE HUNTER IS OUT ON BLU-RAY AND DVD ON OCTOBER 29